If you work in marketing, you may have heard the term attention economy. It’s usually used to impress upon marketers the need to be interesting and relevant to gain the attention of a disinterested populace.
My recent experience though has made me question the feasibility of gaining anyone’s attention.
At 9pm on Saturday night, I was curled up in bed. My daughter was at her friend’s place and it was time for me to get in the car and drive for 30 minutes along winding country roads to pick her up.
I didn’t want to. My bed was warm, and the outside temperature was somewhere just above zero. A good parent does not live for themselves though, so comfort would have to wait.
My wife, who was already fast asleep, had dropped our daughter off during the day and I had to find the house at night. This was the first time I’d been there and despite the best intentions of Google Maps, I ended up down the driveway of the wrong house.
My wife had told me the grandparents of our daughter’s friend were having a party, so the house would be easy to find. Thus, I thought I was at the right place because I could see the glow of a large bonfire beyond the pool at the far end of the front yard. I could also hear a live band playing.
I thought it strange there were only two cars parked in the driveway when I could see the shadows of dozens of people in the distance around the bonfire. I walked around the pool and to the edge of the yard, barely illuminated by moonlight. I was annoyed to find the ground beyond the edge of the yard, leading to the bonfire, strewn with large boulders.
I did not have a torch to light my way and the bonfire was still some distance away. Careful not to trip over the rocky and uneven ground, I made my way towards the light. Finally, I came to the edge of the rocks and the ground dropped away to a grassy area where the bonfire was, surrounded by people talking and laughing.
I would have to jump from the rocks and onto the grass as there were no steps. Really? Kind of a dangerous place to have a party. I made the leap and landed with a thud next to where everyone was standing.
Nobody looked at me. I had not dressed for a party. I was wearing my threadbare tracksuit pants, my thrift store jumper and a black woollen beanie. I looked like a serial killer that had just walked out of the darkness and into the orange light of the fire.
My presence was not even acknowledged. No one turned towards the frightful stranger that had suddenly appeared. If my terrible visage had appeared in your social media feed, you would have at least felt revulsion at my unwelcome ugliness, but where I stood was a complete absence of anything.
I looked beyond the fire and saw the dim outline of another house. I realised I had entered the party from somebody else’s yard. I climbed back up the rock, walked back the way I came, jumped in the car and found the correct driveway I previously missed.
I collected my daughter from the correct house. On the drive home through the icy night I was baffled that no one had looked at the wild stranger that loomed large out of the night and crashed their party.
I feel sorry for anyone who is tasked with capturing the attention of people in this economy. It’s obviously a recession and you have one hell of a battle before you.